Monday, 15 July 2019



For the field is full of shades as I near a shadowy coast,
And a ghostly batsman plays to the bowling of a ghost,
And I look through my tears on a soundless-clapping host
As the run stealers flicker to and fro,
To and fro:
O my Hornby and my Barlow long ago !

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Letters Home, 14 July 1944

Two letters home from the front, Normandy, 14 June 1944.  The first is to his mother, the second to his university friend, Desmond Leeper.

Cake is contraband: sending cake is criminal: eating contraband articles criminally despatched must be among the gravest of sins.  Sin, black velvety sin, was, as everyone knows, always a delicious thing – this sin was this indeed… Four of us wolfed it there and then, washed down with sweet tea, and everyone voted you Honorary President for Life.

I continue to learn about dirt and desolation – and, for that matter, au contraire, health and virtue.  The greatest joys, next to sleep, are the Mail, and (well, there it is - ) reading the new staggers and scoffing illicitly sent cake.  Writing this in the inevitable dull orchard with its geometry of trees, nothing ramshackle here, and surrounded by the equally inevitable and for ever blasted bloody mosquitoes.  Living too soiled a life to read the New Testament – or too irrelevant possibly – one can only thrive hopefully on the dignified paganism of the 91 st psalm and its like.  An odd comment on modern manners incidentally is that under heavy bombardment all the boys pray like bloody hell and incessantly.

Thursday, 11 July 2019


Startlingly brilliant book, so full of fact, yet so thoroughly dashing a read.  A kind of magic trick.  I laughed, I cried, I felt my jaw dropping.  And Gordievsky.  What a man.

Monday, 8 July 2019

Evening Standard 1965

Dad in the middle.  My only real claim to fame is that my love for the Daleks kept them going.  Donald Baverstock was the brilliant editor of 'Tonight'.  His wife Gillian was Enid Blyton's daughter.  My Mum was their son Glyn's godmother.  After Baverstock left the BBC he worked I think for Yorkshire TV.  The Baverstocks lived on Ilkley Moor, in a house I remember liking very much, where we stayed with them one long weekend.  My Mum never let any Enid Blyton into our childhood.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

In Memoriam: A.M. Davis

Here's a poem I wrote a couple of years ago about someone who is remembered by a stone in the cemetery at Kensal Green.

In Memorian: A.M. Davis

Eventually, we found him, no-name Davis,
though we got no more than his initials,
a bald A.M. -  Andrew, Adam, Angus?
What’s in a name? Info for officials

certainly, but first a mother’s cooing,
a father’s first boasting, cigar in hand,
and now it is gone.  What we’re pursuing
is chimera, a ghost in the sand.

He served with the three forty-seventh
Mechanical Transport Company
in the land of milk and honey, heaven
but for a kind of killing gluttony.

His body is buried in Ramlah, and
remembered here in more temperate climes.
Nearby a skeletal gasometer stands
encircling nothing, describing dead time.

The still-white limestone has cracked at the base.
Not quite flat, it strains against oblivion.
Without difficulty we read its face:
there is nothing beyond death’s quotidian.

There are scallop shells, loose on the gravel.
They signify a loss across the seas,
for a soldier who did not die in battle
succumbing perhaps to Levantine disease.

How lately placed it is hard to reckon.
Lives, like memory, like gas, seep unseen
through gaps in time, and now this one beckons,
this early Spring day, crying I HAVE BEEN.

Tuesday, 2 July 2019


I have now written two biographies.  The following is the truest remark on the genre I've yet to find:

"Too much intelligence is often as pernicious in biography as too little; the mind remains perplexed by contradiction of probabilities and finds difficulty in separating report from truth." Hester Lynch Piozzi, Anecdotes of Samuel Johnson (New Edition, 1826)

Slightly concerned that it might be thought I am claiming 'too much intelligence'. Of course y'all understand that 'intelligence' here means 'information'. (OED 6a. Knowledge concerning events communicated by or obtained from another).